Season two of Coffee with a Journalist continues as host Beck Bamberger talks with Jacob Krol, Tech and Electronics Editor for CNN Underscored. In this episode, Beck and Jacob dive into Jacob’s day-to-day schedule, his process for crafting consumer product stories at CNN Underscored, and lots more! Click below to listen to the full conversation:
How He Writes Stories
Beck: So first off, let’s talk about how you make a great story. What does it actually take from the initial idea or a pitch or wherever it comes from, to then produce it and make it actually go live on your page?
Jacob: Got it. So it can be long or it can be short depending on it. I do try to rely on pitches a lot because I feel like in my role I try to keep an eye on all things tech, which is a large industry. So if we get a really cool pitch, if we forgot about the anniversary of something, like an App Store anniversary or like 10 years of the iPhone, let’s say, it’s nice to kind of segment it off of there.
But it’s also great with a lot of stuff we do at tech is we get to play with gadgets a lot. If we get pitched and I see we got four different pitches about new earbuds, maybe it’s time to go update the best true wireless earbuds. But we get it from pitches, story ideas. I work with a wonderful team over at Underscore or from SEO we do a lot with. But I’d say from there with the product testing we call a lot of it in. So I get the wonderful job of opening a hundred or a lot of cardboard boxes if you get a lot of stuff.
Beck: Hundreds? Did you say hundreds? A week, a month, what?
Jacob: I’d say a month. We get a lot of stuff around the holidays with the gift guide because for recommending stuff we want to make sure we test it to make sure it’s good if we want to recommend somebody to go spend money on it. So it’s a lot of unboxing, which I still like because I used to do those videos way back when.
His Thoughts on Pitching
Beck: I think you were the first person who has said quote, I enjoy the pitches. Yeah, let that go on record. My God.
Jacob: Well weird, right? A little weird. But they help you know, and if they spelled my name right, that that helps a lot. And if it’s on point, but I think because it’s kind of all tech and I don’t really like I’m not just phones, I’m kind of everything. It’s nice to kind of see what’s going on.
Beck: Well that is on record now Jacob. So I’m Okay. Well talk a little bit about how you like then a pitch. Is it just strong subject line? Is it three bullet points? What would you say for folks who are listening? Yeah,
Jacob: I like it when they do their homework so they know what I’ve covered recently. I will say a lot of people try to tie in the Springsteen love. I think I get some of those, some people like really go part of the like lyrics and stuff. I think the biggest thing for me is that it’s, it’s on point. If it’s like a deadline sensitive thing or if it’s an embargo to make that clear and then to spell my name right. Make sure you know the organization. I get some, where it’s like you don’t even know where it’s CNN or. it might be pitching me somewhere else, but I definitely use my work email more than one the time, my website.
But you know, just call out like the big points about it. What’s really going to excite me about it and you know, let me do some homework on it, still. And if I don’t reply back, I’m sorry. We get a lot of them, but take time of making it personalized. Literally, “Hey we just saw this. Maybe this can kind of correlate back to it”, but it’s pretty clear when they’re just the high blank.
His Work Inbox
Beck: Yeah. Yeah. That you seem to have the coolest job. Yes. Okay. What about your inbox? So you said, as you said, you like the pitches.
Beck: How does the inbox look for you and how do you manage it? And like what’s it and also what’s in there? Is it like 10% actual colleagues, your editor or something? The rest all pitches. What’s happening in there.
Jacob: So you know, every day we do like the daily budget of stories and you’re, what’s coming in for me to vertical. So I that’s a good amount. I’m not an inbox zero person. I probably have somewhere close to 1600 emails at any given time. It’s, it’s a lot.
Beck: We heard 47,000 yesterday, so yeah. And he just, he just lets it roll. Yeah.
Jacob: So it’s interesting, you know a lot them when their pitches that are on point with tech. It’s nice and, I try to read through them and, generally I try to respond back to let them know if it’s, coming back, I was off for a few days, trying to come back and dig through a lot of inboxes. I might feel slow to respond now. Right now, it’s particularly heavy with CS stuffs, booking appointments, scheduling booth tours, pre briefs, all that kind of wonderful stuff. So with that, you know, it’s kind of moving them into a separate folder.
Beck: So that said, you’re kind of alluding to you try to get back to, you get back to like 50%? 20%? 50%! That’s good.
Jacob: Try to, I try to 50. And if somebody will follow up, it’ll at least bring it back up. I don’t particularly like all the voicemails, but if I get some people
Beck: you like a voicemail? Like someone took. Oh I was going to say, I was like what? What?
Jacob: I don’t particularly like it, but you’re really close contact. That’s fine. But like a random cold call, especially on a personal cell phone, which I’ve gotten every once in a while, it can be a little…
We hope you enjoyed learning more about Jacob, his unique role at CNN Underscored, how he responds to pitches, how he crafts stories for the outlet, and a small glimpse of his personality outside the newsroom. If you’re pitching a product or product launch, download a free copy of our pitch cheat sheet for the most important information you should be including within your pitch.
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